The Expository Files

Captured by the Enemy!

Colossians 2:8-12


The poor souls were led away in chains. It had been a trap. They had not listened to the warnings. They had scoffed at those who had pleaded with them not to go. They thought they had been clever. But now they were trapped.

Some of their own number had assisted the Enemy in springing the trap. The Enemy had made certain promises and had offered rewards for such betrayal. But the final state of those who conspired with the Enemy would be no different than from those they had deceived. A captivity so dismal it could best be described as conscious death.

The above is not a section out of some fictional novel or "docudrama." It is real. The process described is going on today; right now, as you read this. Men and women suffering from a spiritual void are looking for answers. There is an increasing fascination with cults and the occult. Those who become captives of these empty philosophies and deceptions come from all sorts of backgrounds, save one. You'll find the non-religious taken captive as well as the nominal church member. But you'll be hard-pressed ever to find a knowledgeable, dedicated Christian falling victim to these delusions.

The apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote of such captivity, and gave us information on why we want to avoid such captivity and how to do so. The Scriptures say, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the removal of the body of flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." (Colossians 2:8-12).

The Weapons of Enemy
"See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." (Colossians 2:8). The religious environment of the first century was similar in some ways to our own. Those forces which seem to be gaining ground today were in vogue then. The difference is that at that time, Christianity was the newcomer. Today we see instead an abandonment of the very ideals and principles of Christianity that helped make us a great nation and a return to the empty philosophies of men.

The Enemy uses the "traditions of men" as one of his weapons. These teachings are not new. That is why they are called "traditions." Many pagan beliefs are being resurrected again. The "New Age" is as old as sin. The creeds of men are being elevated above the word of God, and because of this many are being taken "captive."

The Enemy also uses the "elementary principles of the world." Some think that this refers to astrology and similar occultic practices. The ancient world was dominated by the idea that the stars and planets control our lives. The Bible calls it "empty deception."

The Godhood of Christ
"For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form," (Colossians 2:9). Remember who it is that the Enemy is opposing! It is Christ. He is God incarnate, or "Deity in bodily form" (Matthew 1:23; John 1:1-3; 20:28; Philippians 2:5-8). On the one side is the horoscope, Ouija board, tarot cards, spiritism, reincarnation, and all kinds of occultic mysticism. The Enemy has marshaled his forces well! But he is facing Jesus Christ. We need nothing of the philosophies of men. They offer nothing genuine. They are not "according to Christ." He is the answer to our needs.

The Enemy offered our first century counterparts the world. Vast, wonderful powers were supposedly placed in their hands by the occultic leaders of the first century.

The Caesars ruled by the decree of the stars; Julius, Augustus, Tiberius and Vespian. Even Alexander the Great waged war by the stars. He did pretty good too... but died a very young man. His armies nor the stars could help him. And the Caesars? Their mighty empire was crumbling. It would soon disintegrate into dozens of splinters and then fragment further until nothing was left. So why are so many today so intent on returning to such a hopeless philosophy?

The Authority of Christ
"...and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;" (Colossians 2:10). Jesus meets all of our needs. In Him there is nothing lacking. He is in control. The tomb could not keep Him. If He says. "I will come again.." then we can certainly believe Him.

Do you believe that you can be "complete" in Christ? This is what it means to "trust" in Jesus. It means that I am willing to submit to His authority because He is adequate to supply every good thing. It means that even when faced with heavy consequences, perhaps even physical death, that I am able to say, "Even in death, Christ Jesus is adequate because He has 'the keys of death and Hades." (Revelation 1:18).

If I am unwilling to follow Christ with such devotion, then He says I cannot be His disciple. To turn my back on Him, even to "gain the whole world" will cost me the loss of my soul. If I deny Him, even to save my life, I will only lose it eternally (Luke 9:23-26).

The Cutting Away of Sin in Christ
"...and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the removal of the body of flesh by the circumcision of Christ;" (Colossians 2:11). Circumcision was the sign of the covenant God had made with His people Israel. But under the New Covenant, there was a new kind of circumcision. The "circumcision of Christ" involves cutting away the love of sin from the heart (Romans 2:29).

This, too, is a needful part of our winning the victory in Christ Jesus. When there is a love for sin in the heart, it is time for surgery! This is also called "repentance" in the Bible. It is what Simon the Sorcerer was told to do (Acts 8:20-24). Even though a baptized believer, Simon was in danger of losing it all and his only recourse was to repent and seek God's forgiveness.

The Working of God
"...having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." (Colossians 2:12). Submitting to baptism is not a dependence upon ones own works or merit. Rather, it is the act by which we place our faith in God's working. By submitting to baptism, I am placing my trust in the very same power that "raised Him up from the dead." One who has not yet been baptized has not yet been "raised up with Him through faith in the working of God."

Just as God "canceled" Jesus' death when He was raised, God "cancels" our spiritual death caused by our transgressions when we are "raised up with Him" from baptism; "And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us of all our transgressions." (Colossians 2:13).

The outcome of being "raised up with Him" is wonderfully described in the next chapter. There comes a freeness of mind, a confidence and a bright expectation of a glorious future. Don't let it be captivity in the hopelessness and empty deceit of the world when it can be the following instead:

"If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him." (Colossians 3:1-4).


By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 11.5; May, 2004

 

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